The Relationship Between Facebook Usage And Social Capital Media Essay

(Dissertation proposal)facebook pic.png

1. Introduction

The purpose of this research is to investigate the recent phenomenon known as social networks, and in particular the social networks associated with the World Wide Web and their impact on the social welfare (also known as social capital) of people. This topic is of particular interest to the researcher because of the increasing importance and span of the online social network sites. Thus understanding how they impact society in general. The scope of the research will be The Facebook – the biggest at this time online social network. The reason for the topic is the increase of the website in our lives and the many disputations whether it has positive or negative impact on its users. Therefore adequate research regarding key concepts and connections between The Facebook and social capital would benefit anyone who is interested in online social networks and their influence over societies. Before continuing with the research it is important to introduce key concepts and definitions which is to make easier for the reader to understand the matters at hand.

1.1 Key Definitions

A social network is a social structure made up of individuals (or organizations) called "nodes", which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige. As in almost everything in present days, the internet influences the social networks. A good example of that is the created in 2004 online social network:

The Facebook. By 2007 it was reported to have more than 21 million registered members generating 1.6 billion page views each day (Needham & Company, 2007). The site is closely incorporated into the everyday media practices of its users: Ordinary users spend about 20 minutes a day on the site, and two-thirds of users log in at least once a day (Cassidy, 2006; Needham & Company, 2007).

1.2 Aims and Objectives

The aim of this research is to examine the relationship between the use of Facebook, and the development and preservation of social capital – both bonding and bridging.

Its objective is to determine whether online social networks and in particular The facebook have positive or negative impact on societies.

1.3 Key Research Questions

Is Facebook positively connected with individuals who perceive bridging social capital?

Will Facebook intensity be positively associated with people who perceive bonding social capital?

Is Facebook helping people with face to face communication difficulties?

Facebook Survey Pie Chart

The remainder of the research is organized as follows: Section 2 reviews conceptual development and theories of the research questions. Section 3 reviews the research methods and how they address the questions and how the data will be collected. Section 4 shows the research plan vie diagram, displaying the different activities involved in producing the actual work and how they will happen in time. Section 5 concludes the research proposal by highlighting the importance of the research questions and their connection with the different theories. Section 6 is the bibliography and reference used for the research.

2. Literature Review

Previous research suggests that Facebook users engage in "searching" for people with whom they have an offline connection more than they "browse" for complete strangers to meet (Lampe, Ellison, & Steinfield, 2006). Much of the early research on online communities supposed that individuals using these systems would be linking with others outside their pre-existing social group or location, liberating them to form communities around mutual interests, as opposed to shared geography (Garton, Guila & Haythornthaite, Dimitrova, Salaff, Wellman 1996). A benchmark of this early research is the assumption that when online and offline social networks overlapped, the directionality was online to offline—online connections resulted in face-to-face meetings. For example Parks and Floyd (1996) report, that one-third of their respondents later met their online correspondents offline. As they mark, "These findings imply that relationships that begin online rarely stay there".

Much of the existing academic research on Facebook has focused on identity presentation and privacy (e.g., Gross & Acquisti, 2005; Stutzman, 2006). Looking at the amount of data Facebook users present about themselves, the fairly open nature of the information, and the lack of privacy controls enacted by the users, Gross and Acquisti (2005) argue that users may be putting themselves at exposure both offline (e.g., stalking) and online (e.g., identify theft). Other recent Facebook study examines student perceptions of instructor presence and self-disclosure (Hewitt & Forte, 2006; Mazer, Murphy, & Simonds, 2007), sequential patterns of use (Golder, Wilkinson, & Huberman, 2007), and the relationship between profile structure and friendship communication (Lampe, Ellison, & Steinfield, 2007).

Putnam (2000) distinguishes between bridging and bonding social capital. The former is linked to what network researchers refer to as "weak ties," which are loose connections between persons who may provide useful information or fresh perspectives for one another but on average not emotional support (Granovetter, 1982). On the other hand, bonding social capital is found between individuals in tightly-knit, emotionally close relationships, such as family and close friends.

Social capital generally refers to the assets accumulated through the relationships between people (Coleman, 1988). Social capital is a flexible term with a range of definitions in numerous fields (Adler & Kwon, 2002), conceived of as both a cause and an effect (Resnick, 2001; Williams, 2006). Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992) define social capital as "the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition" (p. 14). The assets from these relationships can fluctuate in form and function based on the relationships themselves.

Social capital has been related to a diversity of positive social outcomes, such as better public health, lower crime rates, and more resourceful financial markets (Adler & Kwon, 2002). According to numerous instruments of social capital, this important resource has been deteriorating in the U.S. for the past several years (Putnam, 2000). When social capital declines, a community experiences augmented social disorder, reduced involvement in public activities, and potentially more mistrust among society members. Greater social capital increases commitment to a community and the ability to organize collective actions, among other benefits. Social capital may also be used for harmful purposes, but in general it is seen as a positive effect of interaction among participants in a social network (Helliwell & Putnam, 2004).

The Internet has been linked both to increases and decreases in social capital. Nie (2001), for instance, argued that Internet use detracts from face-to-face time with others, which might weaken an individual's social capital. However, this viewpoint has received strong criticism (Bargh & McKenna, 2004). Furthermore, a number of researchers have claimed that online connections may add to or replace in-person interactions, mitigating any loss from time spent online (Wellman, Haase, Witte, & Hampton, 2001). In fact, studies of physical (e.g., geographical) communities supported by online networks, such as the Blacksburg Electronic Village, have found out that computer-mediated interactions have had constructive effects on community relations, involvement, and social capital (Hampton & Wellman, 2003; Kavanaugh, Carroll, Rosson, Zin, & Reese, 2005).

Lately, researchers have emphasized the significance of Online-based linkages for the formation of weak ties, which provide the foundations of bridging social capital. Donath and boyd (2004) theorize that SNSs (Social Network Services) could to a great extent add to the weak ties one could form and maintain, because the technology is well-suited to maintaining such ties inexpensively and effortlessly.

Based on the earlier work, one could suggest the following assumption:

Concentration of Facebook use should be positively connected with individuals' perceived bridging social capital.

  It is obvious that the Internet facilitates new connections, in that it provides people with another way to connect with others who share their interests or relationship goals (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006; Horrigan, 2002; Parks & Floyd, 1996). These new connections may cause an increase in social capital; for example, a 2006 Pew Internet study analysed that online users are more likely to have a larger network of close ties than non-Internet users, and that Internet users are more likely than non-users to obtain help from core network members (Boase, Horrigan, Wellman, & Rainie, 2006). Williams (2006) argues that even though researchers have examined possible downfalls of social capital in offline communities due to greater Internet use, they have not effectively explored online gains that could compensate for this. For that reason it could be proposed a second assumption on the relationship between Facebook use and close ties:

Concentration of Facebook use should be positively related with individuals' perceived bonding social capital.

3. Methodology

The ontology of this research is such as: although Facebook is virtual and without material component, one can view and describe it as a real object, because it can be used, felt and its existence - proved. Second is the epistemology, for which the objective perspective is used, because Facebook is seen as separate entity from the individual user. The environment is constant, thus the result is that the individual`s profile is what changes according to the virtual surrounding. This perspective makes it easier for marketers to analyse the user behaviour and give firms the opportunity to efficiently advertise and sell their products for maximizing profits. To provide evidence that the research findings are indeed correct, the positivist assumption will be used, because it is better and more accurate way of describing the topic, giving exact data for the research. An example of bad secondary date is the following pie chart:

For the purpose of the research a comparison of the terms primary and secondary data is needed, so one can see why the author of the research chooses the second. Primary data is collected to be up to date and topic specific. This in no doubt leads to better and more accurate results. The big downfall of this method is its time consuming nature and the fact it is really expensive. On the other hand Secondary data is identified by Saunders et al (2003) as data previously collected, stored or published. The big plus of secondary data is that it is already published, analysed, structured and is reviewed by other professors and academics, who already evaluated it. There are two types of secondary data identified by Saunders et al (2003). These are qualitative and quantitative data. The qualitative data is usually analyses and text-like definitions whereas quantitative data is usually related to statistics and numbers. A good source of quantitative secondary data is census, housing, social security as well as electoral statistics and other related databases. It is exactly this type of data, that would be best to use in this research as it is easier, cheaper and less time consuming to obtain, while relatively reliable and least, but not last, by using secondary data it is easier to avoid privacy problems with the people the information was gathered from. As every method, secondary data has its disadvantages, which in this case are that the data may be collected for a different from the researcher`s aim and thus it can be distorted. The access to some secondary data sources can be costly and difficult. Furthermore it is proved that one has no real control over the quality and reliability of the secondary data at all. (Saunders, M. Et al. 2003) For that reason when collecting the secondary data it is vital to measure its validity and whether it meets the researcher`s needs. There is always bias in the data, so it is important to find as many sources as possible to minimise the bias. (Saunders, M. Et al. 2003).

For this exact research the secondary data will be collected from analysed written surveys, questionnaires, telephone surveys, observation focus groups and existing records. Each of those has their own pros and cons in terms of how much qualitative data can be extracted out of them. It is clear that written surveys with determined scales will give more pure numbers and thus make the descriptive statistics analysis easier. On the other hand processing telephone surveys and observation focus groups would be harder and more time consuming. But as stated above one need as much data sources as possible to fully analyse and give reliable and non biased answer on a topic as large as the impact of the largest online social network – Facebook on its users.

4. Research plan:

Step one: writing the proposition

Step two: make a research on the possible resources available and making a list of the most useful sources.

Step three: Following the proposition methods, mine the needed quantitative data from the resources.

Step four: Analyse and process the raw quantitative mined data via descriptive statistics analysis and the qualitative data analysis.

Step five: Summaries the data found from the previous steps and based on it start writing the actual dissertation.

Step six: Review the Reference and bibliography carefully and write it.

Step seven: Give the semi-finished dissertation to the advisor for ideas of improvement.

Step eight: Improve and polish the dissertation and then wrap it up for submission.

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5. Conclusion

With the data that could be gathered using the models described above, one will have a more in-depth, reliable and useful information about the actual benefits and drawbacks Facebook gives in terms of social and bonding capital. It will be seen whether the theories suggesting Facebook helps people with face communication difficulties are indeed true. In general, conducting this research will provide data that is important for understanding the ever-growing online social networks and how to cultivate them to bring maximum benefits, not only for socializing, but for businesses, education, helping people overcome socializing problems and improving our lives in general.